Have you ever played with a ball in the water? What about holding that ball underwater; what happens the second you let go? POP! It splashes and hits you in the face.
Emotions can be quite similar. When people tend to hold them in and leave them unprocessed, these emotions can manifest in various ways. Especially for children, repressed emotions can be conveyed by attachment difficulties, behavioral outburst, and poor academic achievement, among other issues. So, what can you do to help your child?
Reframe the Behavior
What is your child’s behavior trying to tell you? Listen to stressors and barriers that your child is trying to communicate to you. Work on collaborating with your child to reduce these stressors. Your child may be feeling guilt and shame for not feeling fully equipped to handle a situation.
Help them reframe this behavior by normalizing asking for help
Then, work together to find solutions. In doing so, it will help your child to feel more like they have a sense of control over themselves and subsequently their feelings.
Teach them the skills needed to handle future situations so that they feel supported with strengthened confidence
Ask them questions about what they notice in past situations that has helped them and what was not so helpful. As a result, they can start to build their own toolbox of coping skills and thoughts for future situations.
Regardless of their behavior, share your love and affection for them and fill their emotional cup
By continuing to show your child unconditional love and support, you are teaching them that they can trust you and can turn to you in times of need; truly fostering a supportive and nurturing environment.
Talk it Out
Communicate with your child that it is okay to have “good” and “bad” emotions (I put quotes around good and bad because emotions are neither good nor bad, it is simply how we respond to them).
Asking how their day was at school is a great start but think about ways to extend that
Go around the dinner table and have everyone participate in their highs and lows for the day. Explore how these situations were handled and let your children know that parents are not impervious to these lows either. Children can often become embarrassed to talk about their lower points of the day, thinking that they are disappointing someone if they are not doing well. By show casing that adults, especially parents, go through similar ups and downs it normalizes those feelings for parents.
If talking doesn’t work, that’s okay!
Kids are some of the most creative people I have ever met.
Have them draw their feelings out such as having them draw what they look like when they are sad, nervous, mad, and happy.
After they have drawn this, have your child explain to you a time that have felt this way. When your child is doing this, work on hearing them and supporting them without judgement or anger. Talking about feelings or how we express feelings can even be explored in visual communication as well such as the movie Inside Out. What a great movie to showcase how feelings work and how we all have them! Use this as a tool to help guide conversations about your child’s feelings.
Overall, let your kiddo be the expert in their own feelings and be supportive in their communication with you. Opening up can be scary for a child, acknowledge the courage that it took for them to talk about these things with you!